Rep. Waters Calls For Comprehensive AIDS Strategy

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[National Health News]

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-35) expressed strong support for a comprehensive strategy to respond to the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic nationally and globally, while also stressing the importance of individual responsibility during visits to two Los Angeles area health clinics yesterday.

Congresswoman Waters spoke during World AIDS Day at the Watts Health Center, a prominent community health center serving low-income and underserved populations, and at an event in Los Angeles hosted by Bienestar called "Unidos en Esperanza" (United in Hope). 

Bienestar has a number of facilities and programs in Southern California, including its South Los Angeles Center, which serves a predominantly Latino community and provides support services and education to people living with HIV/AIDS. 

“On World AIDS Day, we must remember that despite some progress in research, prevention and treatment, millions of people worldwide are dying from AIDS.  We can and must do more, including adopting and implementing a national strategy to address the epidemic,” said Congresswoman Waters.  
 
She also called on those attending the events to take personal responsibility for HIV/AIDS prevention. “We must continue to urge people to abstain, be faithful or use condoms to protect themselves and their partners.  We must continue to urge all Americans to get tested for HIV and make certain that testing services are widely available,” said Waters.
 
Citing new estimates of HIV infection recently released by the Centers for Disease Control indicating that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is even worse than believed, Congresswoman Waters said: “Some people don’t understand that HIV and AIDS continue to be serious public health issues and require a sense of urgency.”  
 
According to CDC, approximately 56,300 new infections occurred in the United States in 2006.  This figure is about 40% higher than CDC’s previous estimates of 40,000 new infections per year.  
 
Congresswoman Waters, the Co-Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus AIDS Task Force, added: “AIDS does not discriminate.  Anyone can be infected – and affected – regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, income, or sexual preference.  However, racial and ethnic minorities in America are disproportionately impacted.”  

Nationally, African Americans account for about half of new AIDS cases, 45% of new HIV infections and 56% of the deaths due to AIDS, although only 13% of the population is Black. In Los Angeles, Latinos represent almost half of new AIDS diagnoses.  Minorities now represent approximately 70% of new AIDS cases in the U.S., 64% of Americans living with HIV/AIDS, and 72% of deaths among persons with AIDS.  
 
“Although AIDS continues to take its toll on families, communities and nations, we must not lose hope.  We can reduce and prevent infections by making testing more widely available and extend lives by making antiretroviral treatment more widely available,” said Waters, who also vowed to continue her work as a leading Congressional advocate for more resources for HIV prevention, treatment and research.


 

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